Northern Ireland

Gay cake row: Peter Robinson calls court action 'bonkers'

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Media captionPeter Robinson called the decision by the Equality Commission to take a civil action case against a Christian-owned bakery firm as "bonkers"

A decision to take a bakery to court in a row over a pro-gay marriage cake slogan has been described as "bonkers" by Northern Ireland's first minister.

Peter Robinson criticised the Equality Commission's decision to fund legal action against Ashers Baking Company.

The County Antrim bakery firm refused a customer's request for a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.

Mr Robinson said the commission needed to "wind their necks in" at a time when public funds were under pressure.

The cake was ordered from Asher's Belfast shop in May, by a gay rights activist who wanted it to feature the logo of a campaign group called 'Queerspace'.

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Image caption Another bakery later accepted the order for the cake, which was bought for a civil event marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in May

The Christian-run family firm declined the order because it was "at odds" with their beliefs and has refused to pay compensation to the customer.

Mr Robinson told the BBC: "This kind of decision by the Equality Commission is bonkers.

"I think they really do need to wind their necks in at a time when we're scraping around to get funding for essential services in Northern Ireland, they're tossing it into the courts," the first minister added.

The Equality Commission said on Wednesday that it would have preferred not to take legal action against the firm.

However, the watchdog said the case raised "issues of public importance regarding the extent to which suppliers of goods and services can refuse service on grounds of sexual orientation, religious belief and political opinion".

Sinn Féin said it was a "very important test case".

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